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Do research before deciding how to donate to Ukraine, charity expert says

A charity expert is warning potential donors that giving to help the growing humanitarian crisis created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not like donating during a crisis created by a natural disaster.

Making sure money can help efforts inside Ukraine is important, Kate Bahen says

Ukrainian refugees arriving in neighbouring Poland. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A charity researcher is warning potential donors that giving to help the growing humanitarian crisis created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine is unlike donating during a crisis created by a natural disaster.

The difference is that it's not safe for most aid groups to go into a war-torn country, said Kate Bahen, the managing director of Charity Intelligence Canada, a research organization that provides detailed reports on Canadian charities.

"When you normally have a humanitarian appeal, it's for an earthquake or it's for a hurricane response … now it is safe to go in and help rebuild and do those response efforts," Bahen said.

"This is a war, it is not over, it is ongoing," she said of Ukraine. "And Ukraine is not safe for humanitarian aid workers to go into to do their emergency response."

Bahen said most of the donated money reaching the region is being spent in neighbouring countries such as Poland and Romania.

That money is being used to help the growing number of refugees from Ukraine.

While helping these people is important, Bahen said, money would have the most impact if it could get into Ukraine, and that's what people should be focusing on.

"The last thing we want is for our support to be in a Canadian bank account two years from now," she said, advising people to do some research.

Russia's military forces kept up their punishing campaign to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Monday after an airstrike on a military base near the Polish border brought the war dangerously close to NATO's doorstep.

A new round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials raised hopes that progress would be made in evacuating civilians and getting emergency supplies to areas without enough food, water and medicine.

Ukranian Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders

While it is getting more difficult to get money into Ukraine, Bahen said, there are organizations still on the ground in the country that need support.

One of them is the Ukrainian Red Cross.

Bahen cautions that giving money to the Canadian Red Cross may not have as immediate an impact.

Kate Bahen is the managing director of Charity Intelligence.

"We hope the other national Red Crosses transferred that money, but that is not known," she said. 

"You can remove all of that uncertainty, and you can give directly to  the Ukrainian Red Cross."

Since the Ukrainian Red Cross is not a registered charity in Canada, donations are not eligible for a tax deduction, but those donations will be used inside Ukraine.

Another option for people to give is Doctors Without Borders, which still operates in Ukraine.

Donations of goods not advised

Bahen said giving food, clothing or other physical goods is not helpful.

While these donations are made with the best intentions, they won't help relief efforts, she said.

"Europe is enormously wealthy and they have clothes, and they have food, and they have water, and they have medical supplies," said Bahen.

She said sending goods to the region can also cause additional logistical headaches, and take away from the work that needs to be done.

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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